An Airy Dining Room Makeover You Have to See
At just twenty-one years old, describing Kevin O’Gara as a true design prodigy feels apt. While he’s always loved design in different forms, whether it’s branding, product design, photography, or interiors—he started gravitating to interior design as a sophomore in high school when he started his Atlanta-based lifestyle blog, Thou Swell. Now a student at Cornell, he recently invested in a townhouse with his mother and sisters that needed updating.
“I love residential design, that’s where my passion is. Over time I’ve shifted my focus to more community related design so things like boutique hospitality. But with this family project, they all really trusted me with the entire renovation,” say O’Gara. One of the first steps was revamping the dining room. “We cook together a lot as a family,” he explains. “So the dining room was an important space for us, plus I’ve always loved a formal dining room.”
The jumping off point for the design? A set of dining room chairs that have been in the family forever. He knew that this room was one space in the house that he wanted color, so he took a good look at the fabric and decided to pull a blue green color from the chairs and began trying to match the paint to it. “I knew that there would be a lot of wood in the room so I wanted the blue to be fresh and make the space feel not too old school,” says O’Gara. “Then I used the red and the gold as pops of accent color.”
While he looked at a few shades of blue for the walls, it was Headspace that ended up being the color. “I used the peel and stick swatches in a few shades of blue and once they were on the wall we noticed how that particular color really changed with the light throughout the day,” say O’Gara. “At night it goes very green with the mellow light and it warms up perfectly for dinner time. During the day it’s very light and blue which feels appropriate for breakfast and lunch.”
It wasn’t only the walls that got painted with Headspace; he also used the color to paint separate shelving units they had. Using the color as a unifier, it gives the shelves a built-in look and adds a unique architectural detail to the room. He really wanted the shelving to blend and not feel like they were closing the room in.
From there it was all about balance. While the chairs and the buffet (another family heirloom) feel more traditional it was important to O’Gara to balance the room using more modern touches. The chandelier and the accent lamps’ clean lines strike the perfect balance. He also created his own artwork to go over the buffet.
“I knew that I wanted something that felt lighter and more contemporary. So I went to my local craft store picked up some acrylic paints and a canvas that was on sale, and just started on this painting, it was an inexpensive investment,” he says. “It felt good and fun to be creative in this way. If you want to try it on your own, I’d recommend just paying attention to composition. Go slowly, I think a lot of people should try their hand at this. You can end up with a piece you really love!”
Working with traditional family pieces and then adding a bold color and more modern accessories allowed O’Gara to create a space that truly incorporated his and his mother’s style all in one room. Instead of a stiff, formal space, the playful color and design elements let it feel approachable—making it the perfect spot for their busy family to all connect over a meal.
Looking for more interior design inspiration? Check out How to Make White Paint Work in Every Room, featuring Megan Schlachtenhaufen's buzzed about home!
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